Erik C. Ness

Associate Professor of Higher Education, Graduate Coordinator


Ph.D., Vanderbilt University


(706) 542-0573


Erik C. Ness is associate professor of higher education and graduate coordinator in the Institute of Higher Education. Previously, he served as an assistant professor and coordinator of the Higher Education Management program at the University of Pittsburgh and as a policy analyst for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. He earned a B.A. in political science at North Carolina State University, an M.A. in comparative and international education at Loyola University Chicago, and a Ph.D. in education policy from Vanderbilt University.

Professor Ness conducts research on higher education politics and policy. His research agenda primarily follows two paths: (1) public policy effects, especially on students, institutions, and state systems, and (2) public policymaking process, specifically the political dynamics associated with state-level higher education policy adoption. Although he has recently begun to pursue multiple policy issues along these paths, much of his research considers the adoption and effects of state-level merit scholarship programs, such as Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program. Professor Ness’s current research projects examine research utilization—the extent to which policymakers rely on research evidence to craft policy—in the adoption and implementation of various state higher education policy initiatives, including an examination of the distinct role of intermediary organization on college completion policies that is funded by the William T. Grant Foundation. His research has also been supported by the Ford, Lumina, and Spencer foundations. 

Ness has published in the leading education policy and higher education journals including Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Policy, The Journal of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, and The Review of Higher Education. Professor Ness also serves on the editorial boards for Research in Higher Education and Education Law and Policy Review. Ness has consulted on projects related to higher education finance and student access in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia.